A California appeals court has ruled that consulting Google Maps on your cellphone is not the same thing as talking or texting on said phone, and therefore does not fall under the handheld ban the state issued back in 2008. Effectively, that means you can use your device to look up directions without the fear of an eagle-eyed cop handing you a pricey ticket.
The ruling comes from a two-year case involving one Steven Spriggs, who was ticketed for consulting a map on his iPhone while trying to navigate construction traffic in 2012. A motorcycle patrol officer saw Spriggs and gave him a $165 ticket–one that he immediately protested.
He would lose that initial protest.
About a year later, in March of 2013, he appealed his case to a Fresno County Superior Court, where he once again lost. That court clarified that use of a cellphone's GPS or map features while driving is part of California's no-handheld law.
But with the ruling today by the 5th District Court of Appeal, drivers in the state will be able to consult their phones for directions–even when their car is in motion.
California's first ban on using handheld devices while driving went into effect in July of 2008. The state later added to the statutes, making texting while driving illegal in 2009. Motorists are allowed to use a hands-free device, but only if they're over the age of 18. All of these laws are primary infractions, meaning officers can pull you over for talking on your cellphone and talking on your cellphone only.
The AP reports that the appellate court said the current laws "could have been written more clearly," and the law that Spriggs was ticketed under only applies to "listening and talking" on a handheld device–not any other activities.
Of course, the laws in California and other states could probably use a rewrite–just for clarity's sake. For instance, what if I'm just changing songs on my Spotify app? What then?
Maybe we'll see those updates when states begin to update the code to tackle new wearable tech, like Google Glass.
Image via Google Maps, iTunes